Exclusive interview with John Edginton
9th November 2022
Taken from Dusk Issue n. 102 – December 2022
Because we are a Genesis magazine, actually the only Genesis magazine in the world, of course we’d be very interested in learning as much as possible about your experience with the band, back in 2014. I have seen the recent interview you did for a YouTube channel...
The first question is quite obvious. How were you involved in all of this?
I was invited to direct the film and it was a little bit of a process where different parties are coming together. It's Genesis and their management. The company, which was called Eagle Rock Production Company. It's now called Mercury Studios, it's owned by Universal Music. So Genesis, Eagle Rock they went to the BBC and the BBC said: “well, who's going to direct this?”. As a result of that, my name was put forward and I then agreed to be the director. I then met with BBC. We had a kind of proposal for a film that would be pretty much “Genesis in their own words”, telling their story, a 90 minute documentary for one of the BBC's main channels. And then I had at least two meetings with Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Tony Smith. So that's how it came about.
You know Nick Mason is represented by Tony Smith Personal Management, but no connection? Because you had already worked with Pink Floyd, of course.
Yeah. I mean, Tony Smith knew that I'd made the Pink Floyd documentary, The Story Of Wish You Were Here, and that might well have made him favorable because that documentary won an award that Nick Mason collected on behalf of the film.
Was it planned from the beginning as both a documentary and a Dvd, or was it the commercial release a later decision?
I can't really speak to the exact commercial planning side, but my sense was that the Dvd would always be part of it, the Dvd or Blueray, because Eagle Rock Productions has a history with The Story Of Wish You Were Here. They pretty much funded that, and their history of making these documentaries was to get the rights that they could then produce the Dvd and the Blu Ray and effectively try and get their investment back by selling those. That's sort become slightly changed. By 2014, it was in a state of flux, the whole business of Dvds becoming less and less commercially viable and everything becoming much more dependent on streaming and sales to streamers.
The BBC documentary is called Together And Apart. The Dvd Some Of The Parts. Why two different titles?
This isn't a definitive answer, but my opinion about this, and I'm fairly sure this is true, is that the BBC wanted to call it Together And Apart. BBC put up I would say probably at least two thirds of the funding, so they had a considerable clout. They had a lot of say in how this was done and so they wanted it to be called Together And Apart. I think Tony Smith much preferred Sum Of The Parts and he had more say and control over how the Dvd and the US sale. The Eagle Rock sold a film for a US screening to Showtime and Showtime liked Sum Of The Parts more, so this is how these things happen. It's the people who put up the money and they bargain with each other and negotiate. So it has two titles, which is fairly ridiculous (laughs – ed.).
So it was Phil Collins’ idea to get all the five main members together, interviewed in the same room, right?
Yes, absolutely. I met Phil Collins to talk about the potential for the documentary, and he entirely agreed to take part in it, when I met him in early January 2014. He said very clearly, very sincerely, it seemed to him that all five should take part, including Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett. I was delighted, and as a result, Phil said, if everyone agrees, then I'm in, I will take part too. Everybody agreed very quickly, if there was any doubt about one of them, it might have been Steve Hackett because there was a certain ambivalence towards Steve Hackett from the Genesis camp, but they wanted the documentary made. And so whatever feelings were about Steve, were put aside for the moment. Steve obviously agreed too.
You put on your YouTube channel the complete interviews, which is a great service for the fans community
Well, it was a fascinating exercise. I had a technical problem. I was always concerned about the technical side because most of my interviews that I had were taken from a hard drive that I had. The interviews were downloaded onto for the edit, for editing purposes, not for me to edit them, but for me to look at and refer to. Whilst the editor in the online process had less, far less compressed edit sequences, the compression meant that it's not great video quality, it isn't HD and the audio isn't always great either. And on the other side of it is there's a time code running through usually the top, which tends to slice off top of people's heads. And I have taken that out and resized and reframed, but inevitably I mean, especially with the group, when the group meets that is a lot of people go, Oh my goodness, Well, what is this? Looks terrible. I have tried to explain the reason, but they still watch it.
Before the five men interview there is a chat with the three Charterhouse guys only. Did you plan a separate interview with Tony, Mike, and Peter, or did it just happen that they arrived earlier than Phil and Steve?
No, it was always planned that they would sit first for half an hour. I think the whole interview, the whole group filming was in total about two hours. So the first half hour was the three, and then towards the end of that, Phil arrived and Steve Hackett arrived and there was a break for coffee, I think, whilst they and everyone met up. And then the five then sat down, and that lasted for another hour and a half.
In the videos that you have put on your YouTube channel we can see the moment when Phil and Steve enter, and they all hug. Did you find that action as a spontaneous or was it a bit forced?
No, I think it was very spontaneous. And I think Phil and Steve actually chatted a lot during the lunch break, and I was aware that Phil and Steve were sort of exchanging phone numbers and so on. So it seemed pretty genuine to me.
Did you decide yourself the disposition of the band members from left to right (Steve, Peter, Tony, Mike, and Phil)?
I can't actually remember that. I'm not sure, actually. I'm not absolutely sure. It may have been to do with when they went together and they talked about it before they sat down.
You have already explained in the other interview you did with that guy from the Phil Collins channel why Steve Hackett appears often out of frame. You explained it happened because of the camera and so on… But actually he always looks like a sort of a poor relative inside the Genesis history, and this has basically happened for the whole of his staying in the band. Were you under this impression too?
Well, it's a complicated story, Steve. I'll be completely honest with you. Negative comments were being made about Steve very early on in the Genesis camp: “Ah! Steve… he's just milking the legacy of Genesis, even though he walked out on us without any explanation back in…”. When was it? We're talking about the 1970s, but they don't forget this! Phil told me how he was driving his Mini all alone and that Steve was walking. They were going towards the rehearsal room in Shepherd's Bush, I think. Phil stopped and said: “Do you want a lift?”. And Steve said “I don't think so. I don't think I'll be coming”. And it kind of always struck me as odd at that story, because he was obviously intending to go, but he must have been thinking about it as he was walking there from the Tube station or wherever, and made up his mind not to.
So I think this is the issue that a lot of Genesis fans not knowing the personal history, shall we say. Mike, Tony and Phil felt let down when Steve just left the band without saying anything. And I think that's just hung over the whole thing. And then the Genesis Revisited tours that Steve did, and effectively Steve is doing these Genesis tours. He's revisiting Genesis to big audiences, and that's the thing that's underneath it all. So there's this kind of ambivalence and not very understanding of how Steve feels about it. I thought Steve was very honest in his interview when he talked about how he developed his own work, but Steve had put a lot into being when he was in Genesis, and a lot was being turned down as his musical ideas.
Tony Banks, to my mind, is the kind of engine controller. He's the core of the Genesis sound at any given point. If Tony thinks this is good, it's in. If Tony doesn't like it, it's out. And I think they kind of, you know, Phil recognizes that. He's often humorous about it. It was the source of conflict between Tony and Peter Gabriel over The Lamb, which they're quite open about and talk about. And I think it's the source of Steve's kind of feeling that he was never really going to be included as Genesis in the creation of the music. He was never fully accepted. I mean, that's his feeling. That's behind the reason he left. As he says, he was doing a solo record. The other guys do solo records. That's acceptable. Yeah, he did his first and, as it turns out in the group meeting, Mike and Phil played on Steve's solo record, and yet it may have been, that's another reason why they might have felt upset that Steve just left Genesis so abruptly, Dunno.
I don’t know if you were involved with the research of the video footage. The most precious one is Roundhouse 1970. Is there anything you can tell me about that bit?
Oh, from the Roundhouse? I can tell you that it took a ridiculous amount of time, I found out about this piece. I think the man who claimed to own it had put on YouTube a clip with a watermark running through it. I found out who he was. I contacted him and had several meetings and I kept on because I thought, this is essential to a Genesis film. This is new, it's fresh, and Anthony Phillips is in it. This was the crucial thing, actually: the only bit of footage that shows Anthony Phillips in it. Tony Smith was aware of it and was very cautious about it. But I persuaded Eagle Rock to stump up a payment. I think 30 seconds. This is maybe a 30 minute piece of footage, so it must be three rolls of film, probably. There's no sound. David Bowie is in another section of it. I think he's been trying to sell that for years, the sound is dubbed on, but to me it 's was definitely worth it at that stage
There's still considerable doubt about whether that guy really has any rights to it at all. It was filmed by somebody, the guy who filmed it at the Roundhouse. There's a complicated history of what happened to that. The product, the film production company was sued for not paying the film laboratory for the processing. And then it gets a bit lost in the midst of time because it's not clear whether that film laboratory then held back on giving the film out and kept it. Whatever the story, he'd managed to get a hold of this can of film and he had it.
Do you know how much they paid for those 30 seconds?
Yeah, I do (laughs – ed.), I think I mentioned it somewhere in one of my replies on comments. I think it was 7,000 pounds.
Was it ever under discussion to buy the whole Roundhouse video?
No, no. I think because it looked very effective in the part of the film when it comes up that Genesis waived any objections, they might have had to have been there that they were a fineman that, Yeah, Peter Gabriel was very keen on it.
I see. Did you know that the Genesis management recently denied the permission to screen that Roundhouse video to Adrian Everett?
They denied permission? I didn't know the history of that, actually.
It was just a curiosity…
Was before, wasn't?
No, the Roundhouse guys planned to screen the whole concert last September. But eventually the Genesis management apparently gave not permission to do this.
I didn't know. I don't actually keep up with all the ins and outs of that. That's funny you say that. He, Adrian. That's right. That's his name, isn't it? He emailed me probably around, then asked me if it was still my email address and I replied, and then heard nothing from him. So I dunno, who knows.
You said that the project was funded of course by BBC and intended for a general audience. So it's interesting what you said in your YouTube interview, because it seems that some BBC lady, which you defined as a commissioning editor, was not interested in the whole Genesis history, but particularly in the most successful one. Can you explain this farther for our readers and what's the name of this lady, if possible?
Jan Younghusband, she watched the rough cut and seemed to be spooked by it, shall we say,.. She didn't like the first 20 minutes or so with Peter Gabriel, she found it very kind of dark and kind of depressing. And it was only when she got to the late 70’s, early ‘80s that she said she knew where she was. “Now I know where I am” because she recognized the hits. And I think this, to me, was one of the most shocking kind of discussion with the BBC. You know, I made a lot of documentaries, some of them for the BBC, some for Channel 4, HBO channels in America... And you are always used to the producer for the television network having an opinion. Often, at the rough first viewing, they will say what their opinions are. It's usually a little bit of a negotiation if they have very strong opinions where they think there should be a complete change of tack.
But in my experience, and I've made films about very controversial issues, people on death row, the hunger strike in Northern Ireland, where the commissioning editor might be looking over their shoulder and thinking: “Oh my God, the management are gonna come after me if I agree, if agree to this”. But I've never had a screening where the commissioning editor, who had been talking about a Genesis film for months and actually attended the group discussion filming, she attended that session, was still kind of bemused by the story of Genesis's beginnings and through the 70’s. And she wanted that reduced in scale. She didn't really want it at the beginning of the film at all.
So this was a very, very difficult screening, I should say. And the other thing was, she wanted this standard reaction, we need to get a number of people in there who reflect, who aren't just old white men. She actually said: “this is a show about five old white men!”. We've got to have to have young woman in there. We have to have people of color. I pointed out that a very famous drummer who's been playing with Phil for 48 years, something like that, Chester is a person of color, and has interesting things to say. That was a very, very negative screening. And what became clear in the next few weeks was that she was gonna make sure that there were, even though some of these people didn't really know much about Genesis as far as one could tell, that there would be this kind of commenters, outsiders, what I always call as a filmmaker, a phrase for this, it's “Parachutists” (laughs – ed.). Because if you think of this as the story of Genesis in Genesis's own words, and then you start to drop in people who have nothing to do with this story at all, have no real connection to it, except that they're going to tell you something that you can read in Wikipedia if you want to, about who they are or what. And so these “parachutists” were effectively inserted into the film. I mean, I did consider taking my name off the film. I was very angry about it. But that would've left me with a lot of contractual issues.
And I'm very glad I didn't actually, because, in spite of everything, the film surprisingly got some good reviews, especially from Showtime screening in America. But what people almost saw a past, they almost sort of understood “Oh, that's their job” is to sort tell you something. But we all know that. But we haven't seen this group's discussion stuff before, haven't seen these kind of insights that we're getting from some of these interviews before. So surprisingly, in spite of that, I think a lot of Genesis fans hated it, quite frankly. And I understood why. I had to keep fairly quiet, let it ride for a bit. I got a lot of abuse from Steve Hackett fans, who read things into it, which to some extent weren't there, but they were particularly angry, and Steve was too. I think that none of his solo work was in there.
See, one of the things that I had no knowledge of until the film was finished was that they were planning a big release cd (R’Kive – ed.). Essentially, it became obvious to me, Oh, this was all tied in their minds, the CD, and it had some Steve Hackett solo stuff in it, right?
So no wonder Steve felt like let down. This CD was never discussed with me. There was never any conversation about it at all. I hesitate to say that they deliberately chose not to raise it. In a sense, the BBC might have been a little alarmed too, because BBC is not supposed to be tied into purely commercial projects. You know what I mean? Anyway, it happens all the time in spite of that. So there you have it, poor Steve was confused: why wasn’t his solo stuff in there? I have to say, there's a very negative attitude to Steve internally in Genesis, which was probably the overriding reason that his solo stuff wasn't in there.
All right. Because we were speaking about Steve, I remember you wrote years ago on your Twitter account that it was Mike Rutherford who was asked to put more of him and less of Steve. And you have repeated this in the afore mentioned YouTube interview. But my question is: why should Mike's opinion be much more important than Steve's in this particular occasion?
Well, if you think about who Genesis is, right now, it's Mike, Tony, and Phil. Steve is not in Genesis, in the current form. And Mike and Tony were in on the original discussions about the film. They saw a rough cut. They had made their comments about the rough cut and they obviously didn't have the same reaction as the BBC woman at all. But I think when it was all weighed up, and discussed with Tony Smith, I think, and they knew about the CD, they had the say. I mean Steve didn't have any say whatsoever in the outcome of the documentary or the shape of it, at all. I don't think he was involved really.
So in the first draft you did, there was some part about Steve's solo career?
No, there wasn't any, and there wasn't any about Mike or Tony's. Or, and hardly any about Phil's, only around the original kind of, why was Phil going off on this tangent with doing his personal songs, turning up on Genesis. As Phil said, those songs weren’t speaking to a Genesis audience, and he was surprised that Tony Banks liked Misunderstanding. He was surprised that they wanted Please Don't Ask. And so it was sort of along those lines. The whole emphasis on the singles, this is my feeling was this was a film about Genesis. I had to accept that there most other people, once they'd seen the rough cut, were going: Well, where's Steve’s solo stuff? Where's anybody solo stuff? Why aren't we seeing Peter Gabriel's solo stuff? So there was a re-edit where some of the solo stuff was put in. But there was no one said to me: “where’s Steve solo stuff?” at all. And he, of course, he wasn't invited to any rough cut screenings, didn't get a chance to weigh in.
And what about the bonus material on the Dvd? Because there was plenty of space, I think, on the Dvd. But again only four out of the five members are featured there.
Yeah, I know. I had no decision about that, no hand in that. There was nothing to do with me. I was in the dark on what would be on that. But that was their selection, Eagle Rock selection. And of course, they missed a huge potential goal. A huge potential would be to run the group interview, group discussion. They missed it. I never thought that the group discussion would ever get seen. For a long time. I didn't even know that I had it on one of my drives. But what I had, I then thought is, it's unwatchable. It's one camera moving around. I don't have access to the other two cameras. I don't have access to a proper sound, quality sounds. My voice is way off because the one camera I have, just is just picking up my voice on the camera microphone. Of course, I had a wireless mic, and my voice is actually right there if you have the access to the sound recordings, which I don't have access to. All I had was what I had on my hard drive was that one camera, the footage that it collected and the sound that it picked up. And so it's not great sound at all. You're not seeing a lot of shots that you'd love to see, but that is what it is. So I thought, well, let's see if this is viewable. And of course, if you're looking at it from the point of view of a Genesis's fan, this is gold. Even if you can't see very clearly or hear very clearly necessarily, you'll play it again just to see what you've missed for the general. For anybody else, it's like, ‘what is this shambolic bit of filming with a poor sound!’. I tried to explain to people why it looks like that and why it sounds like that. I am going to do another cut, another try, where I'm going to put the whole thing up, slightly cut down, but if I put it the whole thing up, it would be two hours. But I'm gonna up say something like 90 minutes. I'll leave the time code on, so you won't have it. You'll have the time code ticking away through Peter Gabriel's head and not me slicing the top off. And I'll see if I can improve the sound, or at least put more subtitles on. So I'm gonna try that and we'll see. I'm sure everyone will love it anyway, however it comes out.
Again, in that YouTube interview, you already explained what happened about the last Genesis album, Calling All Stations. I wonder if Ray Wilson was even considered for the interview. After all it was part of Genesis, even if shortly.
No, no, he wasn't.
So you never met him?
Never met him. Decision taken outside my role with the sense of the overall shape of this should be the original guys. And I think looking back on it, perhaps that was a mistake, but on the other hand, the whole thing was ill-conceived in the way, because the BBC's agenda and the BBC putting up £. 180,000. They want what they want. They want something for Saturday Night, Prime Time audience that remembers Genesis at Wembley in the 1987 doing sort of several nights, several days with a hundred thousand people each time. That's what they want. They want the big big popular Genesis. And that was ill-conceived when it comes to the idea of the story of Genesis, you know what I mean? That isn't the story of Genesis, but that's what they want to get the audience on their seats. And they don't want Ray Wilson.
“Who knows who he is!”. That's the kind of thing that would've been said. And “why do we need to go down that road?”. “You're wasting valuable time, you've only got 90 minutes.”
And so certain people who will shall be nameless did not want to go down that road. There's a certain ruthlessness around these groups, Pink Floyd's the same. I mean, they employ old school management who can be very, very ruthless in terms of ownership of material and commercializing what they have and holding onto it, making sure that they get what they get. Pink Floyd's management in the early 70’s was absolutely notorious for that as well. And look at the Who, they had a manager who insisted on having a bag of cash handeds to them, or Led Zeppelin. I think Peter Grant, unless they handed him the bag of cash before the show, he wasn't gonna let Led Zeppelin play. So “20,000 people at Madison Square Garden, they can all go home unless you give us the cash now”. And that still prevails to some degree, that kind of hardheaded maximum control. So I'm sure poor Ray Wilson is feeling very hard done by. It would be a one sentence decision. “Nope, we don't want Ray Wilson”. That's it. Nothing to do with him personally. Purely commercial.
Because you mentioned your Pink Floyd documentary, I interviewed you 10 years ago for the Jam magazine for that documentary, and I remember you told me at the time that Rick Wright was the only Pink Floyd member you had the chance to call at home directly, without passing through the management. Is there any one among Genesis you had the same kind of relation with?
Well, funnily Phil. I mean, the initial contact was made by Tony Smith and then I had Phil's phone number and he phoned me, I phoned him. We met up several times. We emailed each other. You see, it's interesting. Phil was very happy with the final film. He emailed me and told me that he had great response from people who'd watched it in America on Showtime. Peter Gabriel told me that he was very happy with the final film. Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford tried very, very hard to avoid me at the premiere (laughs – ed.) where it was shown in London. I mean, they're typical kind of suppressed English guys. God knows what they really think about the film, but they're sort of concerned to be more in control than Peter and Phil. There's a kind of openness about Peter and Phil. So they are different characters. It's that thing where if you suggest something, Peter and Phil are the guys who will say yes. Tony and Mike, in a very English way will say “Oh, I dunno about that. Or maybe not. Or, Oh, that's uncomfortable”. That's who they are. They make great music, you know, but… (laughs – ed.).
Years ago I saw an Eagles documentary and it was obvious that there were huge contrasts between some of the members of the band. And also in your Pink Floyd documentary, I guess it was out of question to have Gilmour and Waters in the same room.
Well actually even Roger Waters agreeing to take part in The Story Of Wish You Were Here depended on me making a documentary Rough Cut with Gilmour in it and then Rogers seeing it before he agreed to be filmed and put in it. So let's talk about control!
On the other hand, Genesis are usually known to be true gentlemen. Everything looks so polite… I mean, was this your impression as well when they actually met all together?
Well, I think they're certainly not at loggerheads, like Gilmour and Waters. Gilmour and Waters detest each other, it's ridiculous. They extent to which really, I don't think there's that level of hurt in Genesis. We've talked about Steve, and I think Steve has a level, he feels hurt, and I think it comes across in the way he refers to them and talks about it. But I don't think he doesn't hurt so much that… he doesn't detest them. And actually I think it's interesting ‘cos Steve and Phil seem to me to be getting on fine.
I think I said I wanted everyone to let me film them at home in their environment, have time, do a morning, don't do an hour. Tony and Mike agreed to meet me. We met at the Farm studio that they had, just to talk about what the plan would be. And I said that to both of them. I said: Look, I really, really, please don't make it a one hour thing. Let’s come to your home and do it. They both seem very kind of like: “No one ever comes to our home (John skakes his head saying: “brr!” – ed.), not gonna happen. Who is this guy John Edginton?”. And I said: Well, Phil, I've already filmed Phil in his apartment and I'm going back for more. And they're like, “Oh, well, that's Phil. We're not like him”. And then when we did this first sort of attempt to group filming in the Farm studio, a few weeks later, Tony came up to me and said: “I don't mind you filming at home. You can come, here's the address, it'll be fine. I've talked to my wife, she's fine with it”. And I said: Wow, great. Fantastic. We’ll get a much better interview. And we did! We spent a good three to four hours at Tony's. Very, very relaxed, very friendly. Went, looked at his music room and had a really good interview.
Mike. never allowed us in. I felt he never allowed me in to get at any depth, because what happened in the end was we filmed Mike last in this theater where he was doing a Mike & The Mechanics show in Basingstoke, the town of Basingstoke which is a sort of suburban town, and it's a local theater. And he said, basically: “Oh, we can do it there before the show”. And I was like: You kidding? Is this really how much this means to you that you were only prepared to do that? But so we had barely an hour in the theater with Mike, and he was never comfortable. He always seemed to be quite combative, a little sort of arrogant, and not really prepared to go deeper in the way that Tony had or Phil had. Peter, I thought, unfortunately, this is just so frustrating, I don't have Peter's interview, a long form interview I just don't have it. I dunno why, I should have had it. It's just not there. There's a few things that just because at the time I was packing up and finishing, I wasn't expecting to keep anything. I was effectively a hired hand for this one, and the archive would be kept elsewhere I'd be very surprised if Eagle Rock or certainly the BBC won't have it. So it's kind of lost, I'm afraid. But we have what we have and it's out there for the fans, which is great.
(transcribed by Stefano Tucciarelli)